by Isabel Sharkar, ND
Hair loss, also known as alopecia or baldness, refers to an excessive loss of hair from the scalp and is so common that it is considered a normal sign of aging. There are many different types of hair loss. Androgenic alopecia also known as patterned baldness, is the most common and characterized by a receding hair line or general hair thinning. It is caused by genetics and hormones. On the other hand, alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that attacks hair follicles causing hair on the head to fall out. Whether you are man or woman, at some point in your life it is likely you will experience hair loss. It’s essential to watch out for the signs of hair loss and take measures to prevent it.
Thinning hair at the crown is usually a symptom of thyroid or insulin issues. An underactive thyroid or insulin (regulates blood sugar levels) that fluctuates dramatically throughout the day can increase the production of androgens, which can lead to androgenic alopecia. Balance your blood sugar levels by removing all processed sugar and refined food, and eat well-balanced meals with adequate fiber and protein at regular intervals.
A major illness, a chronic disease like cancer, autoimmunity, surgery, physical or emotional stress, nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances like thyroid, insulin, testosterone or cortisol can cause hair loss. Many women experience hair loss especially around their temples three months after they’ve had a baby. This is a sign of an estrogen or progesterone imbalance. Check and restore balance to your hormones with herbals and foods high in healthy fat and nutrients. Remember that we need cholesterol to synthesize hormones.
Needless to say, certain hair treatments can also damage hair and cause hair loss like chemical dyes, bleaches, straightening or curling agents, and extreme twisting or pulling of hair as seen in tight hair styles and known as traction alopecia. If your hair loss is not from physical damage, consider getting a complete blood count and comprehensive metabolic panel, a micronutrient test to determine vitamin and mineral deficiencies (selenium, zinc, iron, vitamin B-12, biotin), check your ferritin levels, get an adrenal stress panel to check adrenal fatigue status, check fasting insulin and glucose levels and test antinuclear antibodies (ANA) to rule out any autoimmune conditions.
As you await your lab results from a qualified health care practitioner, there are many at-home remedies to try. Great hair is more than scalp deep, it’s gut deep. It is best to start with an elimination diet to heal your gut by ditching all processed food. Make sure you are getting adequate protein intake and restore your gut flora with a good probiotic, alternating your probiotics often. Increase high quality fats in your diet—nuts, organic raw butter, flaxseed oil, fish oil, GLA evening primrose oil, borage oil, avocado oil, coconut oil or hemp oil are all great choices. Take a high-quality multivitamin and check out Nutrafol- advanced science at the root of hair health, to prevent, restore and nourish hair.
Ancient ayurvedic hair oils have been used for centuries to prevent hair loss and premature graying. Many old recipes include oils made with hibiscus, amla, bhringaraj, fenugreek, aloe leaves and brahmi—all of which are known to have amazing properties for the growth and conditioning of hair. Additionally, try Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) on your scalp, it is shown to have great results in re-growing hair. Try inversion postures and Indian head massage to increase circulation to the head and stimulate hair follicles. The more you move your lymph the better, dry skin brushing, working out, sweating and staying hydrated are best.
Other things that will help preserve your hair is to wash it less often in order to keep the natural oils in your hair. Ditch shampoo with harsh chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate, hairspray, volumizer gels and hair creams, and opt for organic hair products instead. Use a brush with wooden bristles that persuade your hair to grow as they gently massage the scalp and move the natural oils throughout your hair. Lastly, install a shower filter that purifies the city tap water. As you set these things in motion, watch your hair grow better than ever before.
Dr. Isabel Sharkar is a licensed naturopathic physician and co-owner of Indigo Integrative Health Clinic, in Georgetown. For more information, call 202-298-9131 or visit IndigoHealthClinic.com.